Ruth Castle is a master weaver who has been working for five decades – her pieces are held in collections from Te Papa to Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira.
She first encountered weaving while studying to be an occupational therapist in the early 1950s. In the 1960s, she taught handcrafts in an adult education programme, weaving baskets as a hobby after hours.
In 1960, she married the potter Len Castle and was exposed to the New Zealand craft pottery scene. A few years later, she encountered a woven Japanese lunchbox in the home of an acquaintance, before visiting Asia herself in 1967 to investigate traditional techniques and the use of natural materials.
From there, her work changed to its distinctive combinations of cane and dyed rattan, as well as more rustic pieces made using found objects. Her fruit bowls, wall hangings, even a lemon basket, can be displayed as art or – better, we think – used every day.
Now aged 90, she’s still working in much the same way as she has for decades, weaving in a small hut in the back yard of her Devonport home. “I don’t draw up formal designs,” she said in an interview in the 1980s. “But often let the material take me where it will. I’m a great believer in the happy accident and will let my plan change mid-stream if a new idea or direction takes shape as I work. Cane and vines have a will of their own.”